There’s a reason why Bob Vander Plaats has lost so many campaigns — and that reason was on full display Wednesday.
The city of Ames and the Iowa State University campus have been devastated by flood water. A teenage girl was swept away from her family and later found dead in a waterway. Once again, thousands of state residents will have to push their way through government’s red tape in order to access the assistance they need to recover from a natural disaster.
Residents in other parts of the state — Monticello, Vinton, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Mason City, Columbus Junction, Coralville and Delhi, just to name a few — simultaneously watch film of today’s flooding while reliving the stored mental pictures of their own disaster.
At roughly the same moment when emergency workers were pulling that young woman’s body from the water, Bob Vander Plaats held a press conference. Not only did he show a complete disregard for Iowa residents dealing with a disaster, he did so for no real purpose. That is, even conservative state pundits have acknowledged that there was no real reason for the press conference — the second in as many weeks on the same topic.
While we may have come to expect such a single-minded, self-promotion approach to politics from Vander Plaats, it’s worth noting that by his side on Wednesday stood Iowa Rep. Jodi Tymeson, who represents District 73 just south of the most recent flood destruction, and a Coralville (!?!) clergyman.
The pastor — Brad Sherman — also serves on the board for the Iowa Christian Alliance and, notably, sent out a call for all pastors throughout the state to get involved — not with the new and ongoing flood recovery efforts throughout the state, but in the battle against same-sex marriage.
Natural disasters are precarious things for politicians. There is typically an emotional need to reach out to constituents or would-be constituents, but also a logical need to keep promises and pledges vague and at a minimum. That’s why you see so many “we’re going to make this right” comments from politicians who are on the ground immediately following a disaster. It’s difficult to know what’s available, what will eventually become available, and who is willing to provide what during and immediately following flooding, tornadoes or any number of horrific events.
Also, while people are going through the stress of the disaster, there is actually very little focus put on politicians. Weeks and sometimes months later, residents will begin to digest news clips from those times when they were too busy thinking about survival to care about the larger picture or what promises may have been made.
This very personal aspect of disaster recovery — “rejoining” the world, so to speak — is why Vander Plaats and especially Tymeson are so very ignorant for going forward with a needless press conference. Tucked away amid pictures of a flooded Hilton Coliseum, a train derailment, the closing of I-35, a horror-stricken family confronted with the loss of their daughter and the evacuations in Pleasant Hill will be pictures of Vander Plaats and Tymeson campaigning on the steps of a very dry and safe Iowa Judicial Building.